For a child to read, their eyes need to provide clear, coherent information to the brain. For this to happen, several processes need to happen:
If the above is in place, then the child will be receptive to learning. If there are flaws in either the eye mechanics or visual processing then the child will neither reach their potential nor reflect the capabilities and support of the teacher or parent.
Where a child is struggling to read, it could be their eyes that are holding them back, not attitude or quality of teaching.
We specialise in the vision aspects of reading, we do not diagnose dyslexia. A child can not begin to read well if their eyes are sending mis-information to the brain or the brain is mis-interpreting what the eyes are saying.
Why would this happen? - the technical stuff.
Vision and processing to enable reading is complex and is more than seeing clearly. Many of our clients have 20/20 vision and do not need glasses to see clearer with, yet they struggle to follow a line of text.
Eye muscles move the eyes up, down, left, right. If the muscles are out of sync then following along the line, or seeing the words in the correct order becomes a problem.
Visual stress (also known as Mears-Irlen) is a condition in which sufferers are sensitive to high contrast stripes such as black against white. 5% of the population have a significant sensitivity, 10% have a milder sensitivity. Essentially, it is uncomfortable to look at black and white stripes (like text). They often perceive moving lines rather than stable lines.
Other elements include focus flexibility, accuracy, stamina and efficiency. The dominant eye has a huge impact on the quality of information the eye provides for reading and handwriting.
This is just a quick insight into the complexities of vision and reading.
Is your child reaching their true potential? What could they achieve if their reading was quicker and more confident. What if they could remember what they read more easily? What impact would this have on their grades and future?
Are eyes always the cause of reading problems?
No, Learning is accomplished through complex and inter-related processes, of which vision is one. Vision is however, one of the key processes and there is more it vision than just seeing clearly.
Is this the same as dyslexia?
Having a visual processing problem is not the same as having dyslexia. A child can have both or one or the other.
If a child is not reaching their reading potential, then one of the first things to check should be vision, given its foundation to learning. Many people with dyslexia also have vision processing issues and it is important that they have a vision in learning assessment. Learning in a school environment is challenging enough for a person with dyslexia, without also having a visual processing problem to deal with.
Coloured lenses: fact or fad?
The benefits of colour stem back to Helen Irlen, but the scientific research to test the theory was done by Prof Arnold Wilkins when he was based at Cambridge University. The research followed the expected rigours of placebo control and double-blind studies and have been published in peer reviewed journals.
Further work has been done by Prof Wilkins (now based at Essex University) and Prof Evans, and we have been students of both these highly respected academics. For more info on colour and reading visit www.essex.ac.uk/overlays
Are Vision in Learning assessments the same as NHS sight tests at High Street opticians?
No, High Street opticians (optometrists) do a fantastic job of making sure the eyes are healthy and that they achieve 20/20 vision; can they see small letters on a far chart, small letters close up; in essence ‘what they see’.
Our Vision in Learning assessments look at the complete process of what the eyes need to do to enable good reading, in essence ‘how they see’.
As qualified optometrists with a special interest in vision in learning we are qualified to do both NHS sight tests and in-depth assessments as well as manage any issues arising with the eyes.
If I think one of my students has a visual issue or is not reaching their potential, what do I do?
Discuss your thoughts with the child’s parents and recommend a Vision in Learning Assessment.
Direct them to this web site so that they can understand why you have suggested further investigation.
Parents can do the free on-line assessment so that they know they are taking the most appropriate action and decide whether our evaluation is an appropriate course of action that they are happy with.